Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Moment

Last week a good friend of ours asked if I'd ever thought about what it would be like if (He said "when," but I'm not that optimistic right now.) I get a literary agent.  We didn't really get a chance to discuss it at the time, so he asked if I'd write a blog post about it.  I'm slightly paranoid that I might jinx myself by putting it into words, but here goes:

First off, I have absolutely, positively thought about what that moment would feel like.  In fact, I think about it pretty much constantly.  I have to force myself not to think about it at night because it keeps me awake.  I think about it every time I get an email, every time my phone rings, every time I'm working on my book or typing up a query letter or when I'm showering, working out, feeding Jack, etc.  It's kind of amazing I'm able to function, really, given how all-consuming these thoughts are.
A lot of authors with blogs or websites have a section devoted to this moment.  It's usually called "The Call," because most of the time when an agent wants to represent you, they call you (sometimes they send you an email to tell you they want to set up a time to talk on the phone, but eventually it leads to a call).  I don't get too many phone calls, usually only from Sarah, John, or my mom (Does that make me sound really pathetic?), but lately I've been getting a lot of "spam" phone calls, where the second you say "Hello?" a recorded voice says "Congratulations!  You've just won..."  That's usually about where I hang up.  Most of the time these calls are from places like North Dakota or Idaho, where I don't know a single living soul.  But lately the calls have been coming from New York, which is particularly cruel since most literary agents are in New York.
But I digress.

My fantasies about getting an agent vary.  Sometimes I imagine myself picking up the phone, expecting it to be a spam call, when lo!  An actual human being speaks to me!
"Hello," she says.  "Is Mara there?" 
"Speaking," I say suspiciously.  Surely this is a solicitor or a doctor's office.
"Hi Mara.  My name is Ms. Agent Extraordinaire, and I'd like to talk to you about representing your novel."
At this point I force myself to take a deep breath so I don't pass out.  The details get a little fuzzy from there, but you get the idea.

In another fantasy, I'm out having coffee with friends and I glance down to see I have a voicemail.  As I'm leaving coffee, I check the message and lo!  An actual human speaks to me!
"This message is for Mara.  I'd like to talk to you about representing your novel."
I scream so loud my friends, who are halfway down the street at this point, turn to make sure I'm not having some sort of attack.
"I got an agent!" I yell, then start running down the street like a mad woman, Jack watching me dubiously from his stroller (don't worry - I put the brake on).

I sometimes imagine the moment comes in the form of an email.  This is actually preferable, because it gives me time to compose myself before responding.  But the general idea is always the same - I try to imagine what that feeling will be like, when I open the email or answer the phone and it's good news instead of the bad news I've had every single time until now.  I've come extremely close, and those moments have been as amazing as I've imagined they would be.
For example, when the bestselling author who sort of took me under her wing sent me this email just before John was coming home from his second deployment:

"Dear Mara: It's wonderful you'll be with your husband again -- I hope you guys have a wonderful reunion. Now, about your manuscript. I'm sending to Agent X, an agent at ____. We'll see, Catherine
p.s. the senior reader loved your manuscript, said it should be published post haste, went on and on. As I said, we'll see."
I nearly died of happiness.  I think the best part was that my mom was with me, and she asked me for the first time what my book was about.  (This was for my last novel, in 2008; as you can see, I've been at this for a while now.) 
Of course there have been other good moments along the way; I've had ten requests for materials with this novel and two requests for resubmission.  Those are actually pretty good numbers.   But the end result has always been the same so far.

You know that moment of anticipation, right before you find out if you got the job you've been vying for, or how you did on the big exam, or if you've won the lottery?  Okay, I've never thought it was remotely possible that I'd win the lottery, but I can imagine what it must be like for that person who has four out of five numbers, their blood pounding in their ears, their palms sweating, their stomach in knots and then BAM!  The fifth number is revealed!  
And it doesn't match.  All that adrenaline leaves your body at once.  Your skin gets clammy.  Your stomach turns sour.  You go from elation to dejection in an instant.  I've had that feeling more times than I care to admit. 

I'm just waiting for that day when the fifth number matches up.  And you know what?
I have a feeling it's going to be even better than I imagine.


Anonymous said...

I believe in you! And yes, I do think it will feel better than you could ever imagine in your wildest dreams. :)


Mara Rae said...

thanks katie :) can you guess who i'm at coffee with in scenario 2?

Anonymous said...

Yes! That happens to be MY first choice. I look forward to you sharing good news with us very soon.